Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Dallas is my home, by birth and by choice. After high school, my path took me away from town for a few years, but when it was time to start a family, my wife and I knew there was no other place to even consider living.
Now busy with our three young children, we know just how vital our schools are for the community.
As education has been so important to my family, I volunteer my time serving on the Dallas School Board. The board makes many decisions that affect the operations of our schools, but this November we are asking you to help us with an important decision. There will be a bond measure on the ballot that will allow us to invest in our existing buildings while keeping property tax rates stable.
First, some background.
Our school district maintains 500,000 square feet of building space spread over 100 acres. Our six buildings average nearly 60 years of age, and have been remodeled multiple times over their long lives. Not only do they serve as a home for 3,000 kids every school day, the community uses our schools as a place to gather, play, worship and study.
In 2009, the school board asked our taxpayers to invest $8.6 million dollars into our school buildings to address the most critical issues. Even in the midst of horrible economic conditions, 64 percent of voters supported a bond measure that would keep property tax rates stable. It was designed to be a very short-term bond to keep borrowing costs low. In fact, we will pay less than $400,000 in total interest expense — the rest of our tax money went into the projects themselves.
To ensure accountability, we invited a group of our neighbors with a broad range of experience and perspectives to help us spend that money wisely. Through the next few years, they helped us to prioritize the projects, seek additional grants to leverage bond dollars, and find creative solutions that have cut building operational expenses. When the dust settled and the hammering stopped, nearly $10 million of work had been performed. Our buildings are looking and running better.
But we still have more work to do. Last year, we invited a group of citizens — many from the group that worked on guiding the 2009 bond — to help examine our facilities. They spent a great deal of time touring buildings, asking hard questions, and helping the district develop a plan for the next 10 years. They have recommended that we seek approval for another short-term bond to address high priority needs, while living within our means.
A “yes” vote means the district will issue up to $17 million in bonds that will be paid off in eight years. A “yes” vote will keep property tax rates at the current level. A “yes” vote will support work in every building in the district, continuing work on roofing, HVAC, electrical and plumbing. A “yes” vote will improve safety, security and energy efficiency. A “yes” vote will improve our technological infrastructure and our ability to provide vocational training. A “yes” vote will prepare our buildings for many, many years of productive use.
Join me in voting “yes” on Measure 27-116.
Mike Blanchard is a resident of Dallas and chairman of the Dallas School District Board of Directors.